Celebrating a decade of continuous critical acclaim and international success, Joan As Police Woman returns to collaborate with Benjamin Lazar Davis. We got in touch to find out how this collaboration came about, their new album and touring the UK.
Interview by Jane Howkins.
How did the collaboration between you two come about, and how did you first meet?
BLD: Joan came to a show that I was playing with my band Cuddle Magic. We were opening for a band she was friends with called Sex Mob. I had already heard her album, “Real Life” and was a fan. She really liked my set because I had these really long count offs to get into the vibe of the song. We talked after and I asked her to write with me.
JAPW: That’s it. I loved Ben’s sense of rhythm plus his band was amazing. When he suggested we write together, I happily accepted!
Were you fans of each other’s music before meeting?
BLD: Well I was a fan of hers. But she wasn’t a fan of me. But I guess technically she heard me play on the night we met before she met me and I believe she was a fan of me about an hour before we met. But I was a fan of her for a few years prior!
JAPW: Ha.. An hour of fandom is sometimes greater than you’d think. Ben’s a great performer.
You have an album out on the 21st October, what can you tell us about that?
BLD: So excited about the new record. It’s a record of co-written songs by Joan and I. Six of them are based on Pygmy ostinotti from the Central African Republic. We took these little musical segments and transferred them from alternating one note flute and singing to bit-crushed guitar. We then harmonized and changed these into pop songs. Broke Me In Two, Overloaded, Violent Dove, Satellite, Let It Be You, and Easy Money were made like this. The other four songs were written all interspersed timing wise between the Pygmy ones so they have that same flavour even if the concept was less concrete. The record got mixed by my friend from high school named Luke Moellman. He did such a good job. I love this record a lot.
JAPW: Indeed, we put a lot of love into this record. It was such a joy working together that it was easy getting immersed in it. Playing the record live is a blast because the band is so committed to making the music soar. I am always high of the music when I get off stage. That translates to- COME TO THE SHOW!
The first single from the album is out on the 30th September, and is called Broke Me In Two. What can you tell us about that, and why did you choose that as the first single?
BLD: Broke Me In Two is a bad ass song. I sent a beat with a harmonized Pygmy to Joan when she was in Amsterdam on tour. She then wrote the whole melody and lyrics in 24 hours and sent it back to me. It was the second Pygmy song we wrote, Overloaded being the first, and the third song total that we wrote. I think it was around this time that we realized we were gonna write a whole record together!
JAPW: We chose it as the first single because it seemed to hit people hard right from the top of the song. It still hits ME hard!
You’ve both had rather interesting and varied careers. Is there anything else that you are working on separately, or with different artists?
BLD: Yeah. I’ve got a record coming out with my band cuddle magic called “ashes/axis” on January 27th 2017. I also am working on a follow up record with my duo with Bridget Kearney (from Lake Street Dive). Also, I’m gunna work on my first solo record next year that will have songs on it written with Kimbra, Alex Toth (Rubblebucket), Bridget Kearney, Jesse Harris, and Tim Davis (my brother). I also continue to play with Okkervil River, Anais Mitchell, Exo-tech (featuring Kimbra), Jesse Harris and Petra Haden – as well as others.
JAPW: I’ve recently finished a film score with Thomas Bartlett (Doveman, The Gloaming) for a film titled Permission (2017 release), starring Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens & Gina Gershon. Thomas and I will continue to work on film scores under the moniker EYELINER. I’ve recently produced a full length album for a new artist named Domino Kirke; we recorded and mixed it at 3 different studios in Brooklyn and Hudson NY. It features some of the most interesting and talented musicians in Brooklyn. I have been steadily working on and making great leaps and bounds on the new Joan As Police Woman album and am nearing some molten core at the centre of the earth feeling – please use your imagination with that since I have no idea what that means myself.
Do you have any plans to collaborate further after Let It Be You is released?
BLD: Definitely, we have four more songs written. So excited about the new material. Can’t wait for round two.
JAPW: Yes! As above.
You’re also embarking on a tour around the U.K. in November. Is there anywhere you are particularly interested in visiting?
BLD: I would love to go to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford because they have 2000 hours of Pygmy music there. But I think our schedule is too jam packed to fit a visit in. I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.
JAPW: I am sure someone reading this has a contact there … or knows someone who knows someone… if so, please contact us on Twitter or FB or Morse Code.
What can people expect from one of your shows, and why do you think people should come and see you play?
BLD: Well there are so many reasons to come see us! Our drummer Ian Chang is so amazing and so great to watch. He is incredible. He also plays in a band called Son Lux. We will play the new record but also some great classic Joan As Police Woman songs; some of them rearranged in amazing ways and some of them like the record. We are so excited to play for you and I know that excitement will seep into the audiences.
JAPW: This band is painfully good. Is that a decent answer? The songs will sear love into your brain. Is there anything quite like live music? We will rock you.
Who would you say you have been most influenced by in your careers, and are there any bands or artists you recommend our readers check out?
BLD: I love Pygmy music and pop country. I say check out these Pygmy recordings: Anthology of World Music: Africa: The Ba-Benzele Pygmies. And check out Dirt by Florida Georgia Line.
JAPW: I love The Smiths, Al Green, Nina Simone… Check out the new L.P. Premium by Sam Evian, the new Ex Reyes, anything by Krystle Warren, Old Hat by Van Hunt, Florida by Luke Temple, Getaway by Bridget Kearney and Benjamin Lazar Davis, and Disturbing Wildfire by Invisible Familiars.
Any last words for the fans?
BLD: Come check the show out! Ya won’t regret it! So so excited about the record. Never been more excited about anything!
JAPW: Like Ben said – WE WILL NOT DISAPPOINT!